Hall and Oates / Abandoned Luncheonette – Remembering the Glorious Sound of Tubes

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This record has the sound of TUBES. I’m sure it was recorded with transistors, judging by the fact that it was made after most recording studios had abandoned that “antiquated” technology, but there may be a reason why they were able to achieve such success with the new transistor equipment when, in the decades to come, they would produce nothing but one failure after another.

In other words, I have a theory.

They remember what things sounded like when they had tubes. Modern engineers seem to have forgotten that sound. They have no reference for Tubey Magic. If they use tubes in their mastering chains, they sure don’t sound the way vintage tube-mastered records can sound.

Transistor Audio Equipment with Plenty of Tubey Magic

A similar syndrome was then operating with the home audio equipment manufacturers as well. Early transistor gear by the likes of Marantz, McIntosh and Sherwood, just to name three I happen to be familiar with, still retained much of the rich, natural, sweet, grain-free sound of the better tube equipment of the day.

I once owned a wonderful Sherwood receiver that you would swear had tubes in it when in fact it was simply an unusually well-designed transistor unit. Anyone listening to it would never know that it was solid state. It has none of the “sound” we associate with solid state, thank goodness.

Very low power, 15 watts a channel. No wonder it sounded so good.

Stick With the 4 Digit Originals (SD 7269)

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars that feature so prominently in the mixes. (more…)

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

Reviews and Commentaries for Dean Martin

One of Our Favorite Titles from 1964

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic of relaxed, intimate vocals returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs – the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • The early stereo tri-color label pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile condition these days, but here’s one, and it is a knockout
  • “It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 2 moderate pops in the middle of track 3, Hands Across the Table. A second mark makes 11 light ticks one-quarter inch before the end of track 4, Smile.

An outstanding copy of the classic Dream With Dean!

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet (including no less than Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell) behind him doing standards. On the best copies the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.

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The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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Reviews and Commentaries for The Doobie Brothers

  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound excellent – smooth, rich and full of energy
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambiance. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Harry – Try the DCC, It’s Excellent

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

We have not done a shootout for this album in many years, but the music is so good we think everyone deserves a chance to hear it, so pick up the Hoffman-mastered CD and enjoy the hell out of it until we can find you a killer Hot Stamper pressing of the album. Hoffmann did a great job, as he did on so many of the DCC discs. (The Heavy Vinyl LPs are another matter entirely of course.) The CD sound is excellent and it will probably cost you about a tenth of what we will charge for the vinyl.

This forgotten gem sank like a stone in 1969, but time has treated this album well; it still holds up. The production is superb throughout. Judging by this early Nilsson’s album, it appears he was already a pro in the studio, as well as an accomplished songwriter, and, more importantly, the owner of one of the sweetest tenors in popular music, then or now.

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Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment

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  • Extremely well-recorded, full of great songs, Rod Stewart was on top of the world when he followed up the brilliant Every Picture Tells a Story with this album in 1972
  • The music comes alive on this vintage pressing, assuming you have your volume up good and loud
  • 5 stars in AMG, and simply “… a masterful record … He never got quite this good ever again.”

Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins. The meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums?

Along with Every Picture Tells A Story this is one of the two Must Own Rod Stewart albums. Practically every song here is a classic, with not a dog in the bunch. Rod Stewart did what few artists have ever managed to do: release his two best albums back to back.

And this Hot Stamper, not to overstate the obvious, is clearly the way to hear it. (more…)

Sade – Diamond Life

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  • The right UK pressings are dramatically better than the domestic and Dutch pressings we played
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[Sade] projects a wised-up sensuality, and the record neither creaks with the revivalism of Harry Connick nor the sterility of Simply Red, to name but two of Sade’s neo-cocktail rivals.”

This copy gives you the kind of present, breathy vocals absolutely critical to this music. There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it. All it takes is a top copy such as this to make her talents — and those of her bandmates — abundantly clear. (more…)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

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One of Our Favorite Titles from 1969


  • This outstanding copy of Neil’s second studio album boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality Neil is famous for (of which Zuma is the best example), with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY
  • Includes some of Neil Young’s most beloved classics: “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes….”

Although not quite in the league with the best of the best — the likes of Gold Rush, Harvest, or Zuma, all titles we have a devil of a time keeping in stock — the best sounding tracks here are a rough guide to what was to come as Neil and his producer, David Briggs, got better and better until they were As Good As It Gets by the time they got around to After the Gold Rush in 1970 (for which they seem to get no credit, outside of Better Records’ raves for the album of course).

We absolutely love the Live-in-the-Studio quality that only the best pressings of this album can give, with minimal processing and maximum energy. Man, with a good copy played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of “Down by the River”? A ten minute long version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”? “Cinnamon Girl”? We are so there!

This kind of musical, natural sound is not easy to come by. If you own any copy of the album you know what we mean. (more…)

Peter Frampton / Frampton Comes Alive – What to Listen For

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What to listen for you ask? Dynamic, soaring guitar solos!

On the best copies the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some songs, which, as everyone who’s ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music.

Not many live albums are mixed to allow the guitar solos to rock the way these do. Since Frampton is one of my favorite players, hearing his solos get loud on this album is nothing less than a thrill.

It’s hard to turn up the volume on most copies — they tend to get aggressive in a hurry — but that simply doesn’t happen on our hottest Hot Stampers. They sound right when they’re loud.

It’s ridiculously hard to find good sound for this record. Most copies are thin, dry and transistory. And it’s time consuming to clean and play as many copies of this double album as it takes to find enough Hot Stampers to make the endeavor worthwhile. When this album doesn’t have the goods it’s just not very fun.

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

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Cannonball Adderley / Somethin’ Else

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Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Blue Note title, and as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball
  • The best sides of this album had as much energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space as any jazz recording we have ever played
  • 5 stars: “Both horn players are at their peak of lyrical invention, crafting gorgeous, flowing blues lines.”
  • “…signs of Milesian influence are the calm, conversational delivery of the title track and the newfound lyricism in Adderley’s playing that followed from his nightly experience at the trumpeter’s side.”

The music here is simply amazing, but the good news for us audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of, if not The Best. (more…)

Van Halen – Women And Children First

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Halen

  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it 
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”

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